Is Traditional Publishing Becoming The New Vanity Publishing?

When I first heard this comment from an independent author, it made me laugh, but then I started to really think about it, and the more I did, the more it actually seemed as if traditional publishing IS starting to become a vanity option for authors.

Let’s look at some of the comparisons to see what I mean:

Ten years ago, authors would ‘vanity’ publish for the prestige of having a ‘real’ book published.

Today, authors who traditionally publish, do so for the ‘prestige’ of having a ‘real’ book published.

Ten years ago, vanity published authors paid thousands of dollars to get their books printed, and often had hundreds of pre-printed books cluttering up their garages because they couldn’t sell them to bookstores.

Today, publishers often have hundreds (or even thousands) of pre-printed books cluttering up their warehouses, since there are no longer many (any?) bookstores to send them to.

Ten years ago, a vanity press author would be unlikely to ever make money from their work.

Today, due to draconian contracts, most traditionally published authors are never likely to make much money from their work.

Could it be perhaps, that self publishing is actually becoming a better, more enlightened, option for smart authors today?  An option that actually compensates us fairly for our work AND allows us to reach an audience directly.

You know what I think.  What say you?


  1. says

    Personally, I’m staggered by the number of authors who are continuing to go the traditional route, along with all that entails. I mean, I thought writers would JUMP at the opportunity to bypass queries, rejections, agent fees, publishing contracts and crappy royalties. Apparently not! Just go to any major writing forum and you’ll see hoards of people still shooting for traditional publishing.

    I used to be one of them.

    I think largely, traditional publishing is seen as the “proper” way to get yourself published. Ebooks are for amateurs who can’t write for sh*t, and for traditionally published authors who just wanna cover all bases. Being an author who only self-publishes is seen as almost shameful. You’re not a “real” writer.

    This opinion is shared by many who haven’t given the ebook industry proper consideration.

    There are heaps of truly awesome ebooks out there that have never seen a printed page (or only get printed once they’re already successful). Ebooks that are getting movie deals with Hollywood (e.g. Wool). The paradigm is shifting. Self-publishing is no longer the chosen route of amateurs (thanks to rating systems, truly awful ebooks quickly get pushed into oblivion).

    I think the more that Kindles and other e-readers become a household must-have, the more budding writers will be forced to acknowledge ebooks and self-publishing as the inevitable way forward.

    For me, I’ll be publishing digitally first. If that’s successful, I’ll look into print-on-demand style publishing like Gotta cater for the technologically-backward, and my desire to see my own books sitting on a bookshelf, after all. 😉

  2. says

    I’ll admit that I would never have considered myself an author in the “old days”. Now I see one of my books on an Amazon “best seller” list in its category!

    I think a lot budding authors need to be told that its OK for them to publish. Doing it yourself is a whole big step, there is no one else to blame but yourself.

  3. Sandra-Lee Hutt says

    This article is worth a ton of knowledge for self-published authors. An awareness of what to expect from
    a publishing industry that provides writers with many options. I have invested much time, thoughts and
    money into self-publishing and I truly hope that one day my investment will reap rewards to me. My advice
    to writers is to first, own your copyrights before your signature on any contracts. I am one who will never
    give up in presenting my work to readers. I always believe that one must read me before the rejection.
    Which means that I will always have an audience. Proven fact is that I submit to blogs and I also submit
    my work to websites seeking writers. I have a self-published book of poems (published 2008-Trafford publishers/now Author Solutions). The only royalty that I received was from my purchase of my book
    that I sent to a relative. I took my project to the next level by creating a website which I sell each poem
    from the book and added more poems to the collection, developed a craft and added color and background
    shadows and clip art designs to each poem. My collection is now a total of 225 poems. I also used the title
    of my book as the title of my website which means all of my poems have the same copyright as the book.
    They are basically protected under an umbrella. The original contract for a best seller package that I purchased from Trafford publishers in 2006 provided with me world-wide distribution of 23,000 on-line
    distributors. My book is still posted through amazon as an print-on-demand sale. I also have an E-book
    distribution available through amazon and Barnes & Noble which acutually put my book in a 2nd print
    and it is also available on E-Bay as new and used copies. I believe someone is making money on my book
    it is not I. I await royalities which I hope one day I will see. I also sought legal advice and was advised to
    continue putting pressure on Author Solutions, as they have received numerous faxes from me requesting
    a sales report and amazon continues to report a no sales report for my book. I have two completed mansucripts which are ready for a publisher and two synopsis’ ready for a film production. Once I have
    the funds available I will pursue my next endeavor to continue writing and submitting my work as I also
    seek an agent who will invest in me and take an interest in my work. My poetry is written in narrative form
    and each poem that I write has the content for a short story or novel. I have completed a novel from the
    materials in my book of poetry using each poem as a chapter title and I have expanded the poem in its’
    content to a chapter. Poetry is my passion. I welcome any advice.

  4. Jams N. Roses says

    Hi Tracey,
    I published a post on my blog just a couple of days ago, and as I am very new to it all, have been reading up on SEO and typed in ‘Traditional publishing new vanity press?’ – looking to see if my post would come up on the screen.
    My heart stopped, ‘yes!’ I thought, until realised it was your post, very good by the way, and not mine at all!
    They say great minds think alike, and I guess this shows I’m not the only one who thinks the same about the new opportunites for going it alone.
    I notice you published your article around nine months ago, do you still feel the same way?
    It’s a pleasure to find your site.
    Here is the link to my article regarding the vanity press question…
    Regards, Jams N. Roses


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